Alignment Nashville Blog

2015 Social Emotional Learning Conference inspires hundreds of Metro educators and community members

Titled Grow, Achieve, Empower Through SEL, the sold-out June 19th event kicked off with opening remarks from MNPS SEL Director Kyla Krengel, Alignment Nashville Executive Director Sydney Rogers, and words from Mayor Karl Dean. Mayor Dean presented outgoing Director of Schools Jesse Register with the Behavioral Health Alignment Team's inaugural Excellence in SEL Award and spoke on his great work embedding Social Emotional Learning in Metro Schools.  

Mayor Karl Dean presents Dr. Jesse Register with the Dr. Jesse Register Excellence in SEL Award

Following Dr. Register's acceptance of the Excellence in SEL Award, attendees and conference organizers alike found themselves wiping away tears during the incredible keynote speech given by Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade of San Francisco State University, Growing Roses in Concrete. Speaking on trauma, chronic stress, and their effects on children's health and academic success, Dr. Duncan-Andrade inspired listeners with methods for connecting with students and championing hope and social-emotional wellness. Connecting the principles of his talk with the recent horrific violence in Charleston, SC made it all the more relevant, and in concluding, Dr. Duncan-Andrade was met with a standing ovation.

Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade inspiring the sold-out audience at the 2015 SEL Conference

Attendees were then able to choose from over 55 workshops offered during four breakout session slots, including content on children's brain development, mindfulness techniques for the classroom, parent engagement with SEL, adverse childhood experiences, Responsive Classroom training, and so much more. 

Conference goers attend session on helping children self-manage emotions.

Special thanks goes out to the conference's 25 sponsors for their part in helping the Behavioral Health Team realize this amazing day. Without their support, the conference couldn't happen! 

Additional thanks and recognition must go to the attendees of the conference -- over 700 in total -- who gave up an entire day of their summer vacation, without pay, to improve their professional skills and enrich their classrooms and workplaces with SEL-informed practices and techniques. The continued growth and success of this annual event is truly a testament to the skills and dedication of Nashville educators, counselors, administrators, behavioral health advocates, and community members.

Congratulations to the Behavioral Health A-Team for another incredible Social Emotional Learning Conference!


#SELConference became trending topic on twitter! Read what attendees had to say about the conference.



Crowdsourcing to address complex social issues

Contributed by Melissa Jaggers, Associate Executive Director of Alignment Nashville

Even though crowdsourcing is a relatively new term (attributed to Wired article by Jeff Howe from 2006), it's a concept that has helped solve problems for centuries. Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary is on the of the oldest examples of crowdsourcing, albeit far before the advent of the internet. 

More recent notable examples of crowdsourcing include: 

  • Wikipedia - this online encyclopedia relies on users to submit and verify information on nearly every subject and topic known to mankind. 

  • Uber - this mobile apps allows users to submit transportation requests that are crowdsourced to cab drivers in their immediate area. 

  • AirBNB - this mobile app links vacationers with local individuals offering short-term home/condo rentals in virtually any vacation destination in the world. 

Alignment Nashville, a 501c3 organization dedicated to align community resources to support the academic success and health of children and youth, has developed a systematic way of using crowdsourcing to address complex social problems in a community. AN's Invitation to Participate (TM) (ITP) solicits contributions of resources from the broader community to work together towards outcomes such as increasing high school graduation rates, improving kindergarten readiness, and decreasing teen pregnancy rates. By focusing on outcomes versus prescriptive solutions, the ITP process sparks creativity; instead of just doing "more of the same," partners are encouraged to think about how they can use their resources differently. The ITP process almost always uncovers "unusual suspects" - partners that use their resources creatively and in new, different ways.  

For example, Alignment Nashville recently used its ITP crowdsourcing method to collectively address Kindergarten readiness. Partners that responded to the ITP included:

A growing number of communities are now also using this ITP crowdsourcing method through the Alignment USA network. If you are interested in learning more about how the ITP crowdsourcing method could help your community address its most complex social problems, please consider attending Alignment Institute 2015 to learn from current Alignment practitioners and leaders about how this and other tools created by Alignment Nashville/Alignment USA are helping communities address their most complex social problems. 



Community Engagement

Contributed by Melissa Jaggers, Associate Executive Director of Alignment Nashville

Community engagement can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people and organizations. For collective impact organizations, it is a crucial component for effective system change. But how can we do it well?

At Alignment Nashville, we believe that systemic change is only possible when the entire community is engaged and the community's resources are aligned. Our primary tool for community engagement and resource alignment is the Invitation to Participate ™ (ITP™) process. The ITP is an easy way for Alignment Teams (design and implementation teams) to invite the broader community to align its resources to a common goal.

The advantages of the ITP process include:

  • Transparency – through the ITP process, the entire community has access to common goals and outcomes. They don't have to serve on a committee, read multiple newsletters, or rely on personal connections – all they have to do is subscribe to the Alignment Nashville email blast list. When an ITP is released, ANY organization or entity can respond.
  • Uncovering unusual suspects – the ITP process opens the door for people, organizations and resources to propose new, creative ways to align their resources in support of common goals. For example, when the Elementary Alignment Team released a Character Education ITP, they would never have dreamed that Marathon Petroleum would respond. But they did – and now have become a strong character education partner.
  • Documentation of resource alignment – once organizations respond to an ITP, their resource alignment is documented as part of the solution implementation. Organizations can use this in future funding requests, and Alignment Nashville can present a clear picture of what resources were aligned to achieve common goals and outcomes. 



Aligning resources benefits both schools and partners

Contributed by Melissa Jaggers, Associate Executive Director of Alignment Nashville

Many schools are unaware of all of the resources that exist in the community, and many partners don't have the capacity to develop relationships or deliver services to all of the schools. The Alignment toolset – Principles, Process, Structure, and Technology – have been described as an "easy button" to help schools and partners learn about each other and use resources as strategically and effectively as possible, especially by uncovering "unusual suspects" in the community and finding new, creative ways to partner.


For example, the High School Alignment Team is currently developing an Invitation to Participate ™ (ITP ™) to align resources in support of Advisory in MNPS high schools. MNPS has developed a framework that outlines topics to be covered in Advisory periods for grades 9-12, including topics such as Social-Emotional Learning, Financial Literacy, Study Skills, College & Career Exploration and Preparation, and more. The High School A-Team is using the ITP ™ process to align existing resources for teachers to access online (ie., videos, documents for download, online resources, etc.) to support their efforts to personalize learning for all students.


During a recent High School A-Team meeting, where the group was putting the finishing touches on its Tactical Plan for supporting Advisory, A-Team member Samantha Andrews, Educator for Experiential Learning at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, had this to say about how resource alignment helps her use her resources more strategically and effectively:


"This is solving a problem for us that we have been wrestling with for a while. We can't always send our staff out to individual schools, so we have tried to figure out a way to provide educational resources online and create "virtual experiences" for students across Nashville. This Advisory initiative would provide the perfect platform for us to do just that - instead of working with each individual school to provide these resources, we will be able to upload it centrally and know that it is easily accessible for all high school teachers in the district." 


It's also solving a problem for school personnel, especially teachers, who often don't have much time to prepare for Advisory and don't know where to look for quality resources. High School A-Team Chair Aimee Wyatt, Executive Lead Principal for High Schools, said, "It inspires me because of the amount of resources that are out there that as a classroom teacher I wondered how to get – and now we have them at our fingertips and are able to connect quickly. There's all this stuff out there that I didn't know was out there before!"


What's Happening at Operating Board?

Contributed by Melissa Jaggers, Associate Executive Director of Alignment Nashville

The November meeting of the Alignment Nashville Operating Board featured exciting updates, collaboration and cross-pollination between Alignment Teams, and more! Here are a few highlights:

--The 16-24 A-Team is aligning the resources of 9 partners – including several "unusual suspects" to provide re-engagement coaching services for opportunity youth in our community. Training for these coaches kicked off last week! Most often asked question: What is the budget for this initiative? Answer: $0, because it aligns EXISTING resources!

--The Adolescent Sexual Responsibility A-Team shared details of their successful conference on October 29th, including their focus on CASEL social-emotional learning competencies as well as self-care for adults working with youth. Operating Board members even got to make their own sensory bottles after this experience, the 16-24 A-Team added self-care and sensory bottles to their plans for training coaches! The ASR A-Team also challenged the other A-Teams to continue to find new and creative ways to incorporate Youth Voice into their planning and implementation efforts.

--The Healthy Starts A-Team brought a new Tactical Plan to the Operating Board for approval – the plan calls for a refresh of the A-Team's existing resource guide, as well as the development of a mobile app to put the resource guide at the fingertips of counselors and school staff. Another Operating Board member suggested reaching out to a specific partner that can probably assist with the mobile app developmentuncovering yet another "unusual suspect" for the A-Team's upcoming Invitation to Participate ™ (ITP ™) .